After four decades of teaching at St. James School, longtime music teacher Mary Klisiewicz is passing the baton to a younger teacher.
“I know I’m going to miss the kids, and directing the choir. Students are like cake to me, and the choir is like frosting,” Klisiewicz said.
Klisiewicz — better known around campus as “Mrs. K” — started teaching at St. James in the 1970s, sometimes as a substitute, sometimes teaching math or reading. She became the school’s music teacher in 1977, and has worked with hundreds (probably thousands) of local youngsters since that time.
“I turned 80 last November,” she said. “The kids threw me a big party at school — that was a great day.”
But a subsequent injury from a fall kept her out of the classroom during portions of this spring. After giving matters some thought, Mrs. K started coaching her successor.
“I’ve been working with Mike Schwagerus, the young man that subbed while I was hurt,” she said. “I went back to school during the first week of May. It’s nice to pass the baton, I’m pleased to know the choir program will go on.”
The St. James community will bid her a formal farewell at a retirement dinner at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the church’s Memorial Center, 1275 B St.
Her plans include some travel.
“My husband and I are from Wisconsin; we need to go back and see family,” she said. “We were going to go to Alaska,” but that trip has been pushed back a bit.
“I want to stay involved in music in some form,” she added. “There’s a group of musicians who are organized through the Mondavi Center, they go into the schools, and they’ve asked if I would like to volunteer with a group like that. You don’t have a chance for that kind of project when you’re teaching. And I plan to stay active with the church — I sing at St. James.”
But this week, she’s still enjoying her time with the St. James students, as they prepare music for the end-of-the-academic year ceremonies. Speaking during a recent rehearsal, she exhorted her students to put their heart in their singing, saying, “Let’s start from the beginning! We have to have this ready for graduation! Your very best, please!”
“I just love teaching music,” she told The Enterprise. “No matter how I’m feeling when I come to school, or what’s on my mind, I start teaching music and it’s all gone.”
— Reach Jeff Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 747-8055.